I’m inspired to write about endings by a friend and colleague who recently became MD of an international non-profit organisation. Hold on, this sounds like a story about new beginnings not endings! But bear with me.
Personally, I’ve made a living from being future focused and goal oriented. I spent little time on nostalgia (until my kids stopped being babies and I started a gruesome treasure box of teeth). I hate goodbyes and I’ve avoided leaving dos most of my career. I’ve barely celebrated my successes, focusing quickly on what is still to be done. I honour endings in some parts of my personal life and have given a great deal of thought over the years to letters of appreciation and remembrance but somehow professional endings have gone unmarked and without ceremony. The consultant’s urge for variety; the next shiny thing has prevailed.
So this is what struck me about my MD friend. What struck me is that she knew by instinct that the best way for her to begin her new role as MD was with endings. She knew that she must start by honouring what had gone before. She knew that her first board meeting should focus on the past, on what had been built so far and on what was being lost by the retirement of the outgoing MD. She knew that it was right to hear from each board member and trustee their origin story – why they joined the organisation and what happened since.
This is not a lady short of vision for the future of her organisation, but a very smart woman who knows that there is time for that and an order to things. This is a leader who knows that the future must have a bridge from the past; that the groundwork for new beginnings starts with paying patient attention to endings.